Live Review: Ryan Adams + Middle Kids – Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne (26.05.17)

If there is a personification of the word “chill”, it’s US singer-songwriter, Ryan Adams. His hidden-eye mop hairstyle, mumbling presence and sizable discography took to a security-laden (and now-controversially named) Margaret Court Arena on Friday night and delivered a slick, calming performance.

Supporting Adams were popular Australian up-and-comers Middle Kids, who were an absolutely killer act to witness.  Lead singer Hannah Joy is an amazing vocalist in her own right, especially when belting out the tunes “Never Start” and “Edge of Town”. A great modern rock combo with some sweet vocals, they played a longer set than I expected, but the audience was lapping up every minute of it. With a debut album out later this year, Middle Kids are one to keep on the radar.

The house lights blared on between acts as the floor patiently filled. In the next 20 minutes, the lights dimmed as small, retro TV sets blared and Adams and his band arrived to a rousing applause – although placed very much away from the front of their adoring fans.

Ryan began his show with “Do You Still Love Me?”, taken off his new album Prisoners. He continued on without acknowledgement of the crowd until around four songs in, yet when he did say a simple “Let’s have some fun”, the audience completely lapped it up. As Ryan continued his set with a mixture of his rock classics from Ryan Adams & The Cardinals (“Magnolia Mountain” and “Fix It”), there was no roar, though when Ryan moved forward to the fairy-light covered front mic, there certainly was, as the crowd realised Ryan was about to perform a cover of the guitar staple “Wonderwall”.

Keeping close to the crowd, Ryan continued on with “When the Stars Go Blue”, as a large disco ball loomed, lighting up the arena with blue lights. He and his band continued to push through a lengthy set, sure to please any fan – fitting in more than 20 songs along the way – before concluding the evening with his catapulting 2001 hit “New York, New York”. Seeing an artist with such an extensive – and consistently genre changing – discography is always a treat, and Ryan was no exception.

If anything was discovered tonight, it is that Ryan Adams may be a man of few words, but for fans, it’s all about the music anyway; and with the longevity – not to mention quality – of his talent, there’s a lot of material to draw from. And on a night like tonight, this rock show – with all its unnerving security measures – still proved a reminder of the power of escapism through music, something we need now more than ever.

Ryan Adams played the Margaret Court Arena on 26th May 2017. Photo by Rebecca Houlden.